Those old enough to remember the Robert Redford movie The Candidate will recall the closing scene, when Redford wins his election, turns to his campaign manager, and asks, “What do we do now?” They had already planned for their next step — jobs in another campaign.
It’s a classic line that captures exactly what we want to talk about today: Redford wasn’t ready to win and govern. It’s not hard to imagine that he failed as an elected official, because he had not prepared to win.
This principle – preparing to win – is even more crucial in civic campaigns. Somewhat begrudgingly, we have to admit it’s happened here at Denny Civic Solutions. We recently faced this situation with a client who won, but we weren’t ready for the win.
This particular client/campaign worked very hard for over a year to raise the awareness over their issue, gained tremendous support, got exactly what they asked for (passage of a bill and additional State funding with a large pot of federal matching money) in a very tough political climate. We were all on a victory high!
Yet after the big victory, we discovered the infrastructure was not in place to implement the desired program and use the money. Fortunately, we quickly formed a partnership with the State and are currently working to resolve the problem.
Being prepared to win in a civic campaign is as important – if not more important – than working to win. Just as you have to start with a hypothesis, research, message development, and all the other pieces of a campaign planned out, a truly successful civic campaign thinks through “What do we do when we win?” from the start.